Texans must move on from offensive coordinator Tim Kelly to retain credibility

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Houston is, officially, one year removed from the Bill O’Brien era. On January 7, 2021, Nick Caserio was hired and every week since then has been dedicated to rebuilding an absolute mess left over by his predecessor.

Overwhelmingly, Caserio has done a fine job. He’s moved off several of the abysmal contracts signed during O’Brien’s tenure as general manager, accumulated draft capital, and seemingly hit a home run in his first rookie draft. Davis Mills, Nico Collins, Roy Lopez, and Garret Wallow have all been fine contributors during their first season in Houston despite their low draft investment.

Additionally, Caserio even found a head coach to guide the team through their 2021 in both cap and roster Hell. David Culley has been an incredibly warm face and handled his difficult situation as well as one might expect a first time head coach to fare with one of the worst rosters in football. Gone are the days of eerily cold press conferences and a defense that couldn’t generate turnovers.

Today, reports have surfaced that Culley’s future is in doubt in Houston. This comes due to speculation players have, rightfully, taken issue with some of his game management decisions. However, this conflicts with an earlier report from the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain that Culley will likely return in 2022.

Regardless of what happens to Culley in the coming week, there is one certainty in Houston. Specifically, one monstrous stain remains from the O’Brien era and one that certainly been the weakest link of the 2021 Texans.

Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly.

Houston ranks last in the NFL in yardage per game, with only 273.4, and 30th in points per game with 15.9. Only the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars have struggled more to score during the 2021 season. They rank last in rushing yards per game with 84.9 and 30th in passing yards per game with 188.5. It hasn’t been pretty.

Beyond statistics, the offensive tape is also difficult to watch. Any fan can see the team, once again, struggles to create lanes for their running backs, over use the screen game, and the play-calling has been beyond puzzling in the second half of games. The staff has done well with the development of Davis Mills, however despite several great throws this season it isn’t hard to see the game plans are ones which don’t put a young signal caller in a great position to succeed.

If Caserio decides the Texans would be better off with a second year of Culley and staff stability, that’s fine. This was a talent depleted roster that over performed defensively and with their win total. You can somewhat justify a second year of the staff with an influx of talent from free agency and the inevitable Deshaun Watson trade.

Under no circumstances should Kelly be apart of that 2022 experiment.

The offensive coordinator has failed now under multiple coaches, with multiple quarterbacks, and his weaknesses in orchestrating a run game have been shown time and time again. For Houston to even feign he gives them a competitive advantage next year would not only be disingenuous but also harmful to the team at large.

Brandin Cooks going over 1,000 receiving yards is not a sign of a successful offense. Davis Mills showing promise beyond his third-round selection is not indicative of success. Houston should want better. We’ve seen what can happen, a la Jared Goff in Los Angeles, when a rookie quarterback gets true infrastructure during their second season.

Mills, or whoever they bring in to compete, deserves an offensive coordinator who can design game plans that put him in a position to succeed and a running game that can support him. Culley and Lovie Smith shouldn’t have to hope their defense can force multiple turnovers if they hope to win a contest. In a weak AFC South, Caserio deserves more than four wins with the 2022 roster.

All around, there is no convincing argument to return Kelly to his same role in 2022. Hopefully both parties recognize this falling the conclusion of the season today against Tennessee. We’ll see if Culley meant what he said.